Ousted ZC board labels come-to-work order 'reckless and inappropriate'

Gerald Mlotshwa, chairman of Zimbabwe's Sports and Recreation Commission, that was put in charge of running Zimbabwe cricket AFP

The war of words between the interim committee running Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) and the ousted board has continued apace, and the divisions in the country's cricket community are widening.

On Monday, the interim committee running Zimbabwe Cricket issued a statement instructing all employees, apart from the board originally suspended by the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) last month, to report for work on Thursday or face "legal" and "disciplinary consequences". Their statement appeared to be directed mainly at the administrative and logistical staff.

On Tuesday, ZC struck back with a statement of their own, calling the interim committee's release "condescending, reckless and inappropriate" and denying the legitimacy of the committee.

While Zimbabwe's contracted cricketers are also ZC employees and included in the committee's initial directive, the national men's squad is not actually in training at the moment and it is the domestic off-season. The women's side, meanwhile, are currently in training, clinging to their hopes of making it to the Women's T20 World Cup Qualifiers in Scotland at the end of August. Their team manager has said they have not heard from the interim committee.

This is not the first time that the SRC and the interim committee have tried to get ZC employees back to work. They had initially hoped for employees unaffected by the SRC's sanctioning of Tavengwa Mukuhlani's board to return to work by the end of June, but when this did not happen, SRC chairman Gerald Mlotshwa accused Mukuhlani of "sabotage" and of orchestrating the stay-away. Since then, ZC's offices have remained empty, although a few press releases reflecting the standpoint of the ousted board have been issued through the usual channels.

The interim committee's statement marked their first official public communication. It called the releases that have been issued through ZC's channels "fraudulent", unless they bore the signature of interim managing director Vince Hogg, or that of Dave Ellman-Brown, the interim committee's chairman.

"Employees and the public are advised to ignore fraudulent press releases purporting to emanate from Zimbabwe Cricket," the committee's statement read. "No such press release has any legal authority unless it bears the undersigned's signature or the Signature of Chairman of the Interim Committee."

ZC's response held little back. "We would like to make it very clear to Mr Hogg and the interim committee that appointed him that no amount of threats will cow us into submitting to an administration without legitimacy," read ZC's statement.

"Our position is clearly informed by the fact that the International Cricket Council (ICC), the supreme custodian of the game of cricket, does not recognise the interim committee," ZC's statement continued, going on to emphasize the ICC's directive to reinstate Mukuhlani's board if Zimbabwe want the suspension to be lifted.

"In the meantime, as players and staff we refuse to be used as pawns in the interim committee's power grab scheme," concluded the ZC statement which had ostensibly been drawn up during a "consultative meeting" between players and ZC staff in Harare on Tuesday.

Yet it seems that the playing body at large is not fully united behind the board in their battle against the interim committee and the SRC. Most players are seeking not to get drawn into either side's corner and simply want to be allowed to play cricket again.

ESPNcricinfo spoke to several Zimbabwean cricketers on Tuesday evening, most of whom did not attend any meeting - or even invited - and weren't consulted before ZC's statement was released. Many did not back ZC's statement attacking the interim committee, but some did. One invited player who said they couldn't attend, but did agree with the sentiments of ZC's statement. Some simply did not respond to requests for comment, even on condition of anonymity.

There are clearly strong differences of opinion forming and while battle lines continue to be drawn and the stalemate between ZC and the interim committee continues, the collateral damage is mounting up.

Four members of the women's side have been stopped from taking part in the Global Development Squad fixtures, and Zimbabwe's participation in either of the T20 World Cup Qualifiers hangs by the thinnest of threads - indeed, under suspension they simply cannot take part.

Furthermore, Langton Rusere, who last year made history when he became the first Zimbabwean umpire to stand in the final of a major global cricket tournament at the Women's World T20 final has now been barred from officiating during the upcoming West Indies v India series, having originally been part of the umpiring panel.